The term “high conflict” in the context of co-parenting, is an umbrella term used to describe difficult family law files. It presumes at best, that both parents are culpable and at worst that each parent contributes equally. In fact, the term quite effectively obscures responsibility.
The “high conflict” frame
often hinders understanding
the context in which
conflict and parenting occurs .
High conflict files are all too frequent in family law and allied court professional practices. These files are difficult, labour intensive and often tiresome. You might wonder why parents just can’t get along, why these two adults can’t put their accusations and differences aside and do what’s best for their children. It is tempting to see it all as simply “high conflict”.
It seems reasonable enough on the surface to conclude that the conflict is because of different parenting styles or that both parents just need to stay in their own lane. But that assumption is a problematic.
High conflict files are rife with parents who use control, bullying and manipulation to secure what is right for themselves, couched under the narrative and rationalization that their preferences are in the children’s best interest.
These parents abuse power and the term “high conflict” helps them by conflating conflict with bullying.
Bullying is an abuse of power and has significant consequences
This misuse of power is often manifest in both co-parenting and in parenting. It is not likely to be contained and practiced only in relation to the ex partner. These parents tend to engage in psychologically intrusive, selfish, overbearing, frightening and damaging parenting. It is a way of life.
There are distinct differences between bullying and conflict in family law contexts.
The head scratching and dysfunctional picture of relationships that emerge in the everyday course of family law disputes defy assumptions and is relevant to uncovering what is actually happening. The term “high conflict” does not differentiate these serious problems. It is in children’s best interest to differentiate what is going on in “high conflict” files.
Written by Glenda Lux M.A. R.Psych